Treating Depression at Scale in Africa through Self-Perpetuating, Community-Based Interpersonal Therapy Groups
Depression affects 350 million people worldwide. Women suffer the burden of depression at twice the rate of men, and the effects on women and their families are often severe and far-reaching. Improving mental health for women can significantly improve child and family health, income generation and livelihoods, and other key indicators of health and wellbeing. But despite the large and growing need, mental health services are largely neglected and under-funded. The problem is particularly acute in developing countries, where rates of depression can be several times higher than in the U.S. and Europe. StrongMinds seeks to reduce depression among African women by expanding access to proven mental health services.
StrongMinds will build a self-perpetuating, community-based system (akin to Alcoholics Anonymous) to help women reduce their current depressive symptoms and prevent future depressive episodes. StrongMinds uses the proven, simple, and cost-efficient model of group interpersonal psychotherapy, which has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms in 92% of participants in previous studies. In the group therapy program, trained community facilitators lead 12 to 16 weeks of talk therapy sessions with groups of women. When UP first provided funding to StrongMinds, the organization had just completed its first pilot in Uganda and preliminary results showed that many of the therapy groups have continued to meet on a voluntary, regular basis even without a facilitator formally involved. As they continue to refine the peer support group model, StrongMinds hopes to harness this natural momentum to demonstrate an effective, replicable, sustainable model for treating depression at scale.
UP provided a follow-on grant to StrongMinds to support the further development and refinement of their teletherapy program to address depression and anxiety among women in Uganda. StrongMinds developed the program in response to the pandemic and found that teletherapy has comparable results to the in-person group therapy program and offers an efficient way to maximize their impact and reach. StrongMinds is now seeking to scale up teletherapy as a core part of their program delivery model.